‘I Got A Brick’: Mehserle Protester Prepares to Lash Out

By Dawneka Akins

OAKLAND, CA – “I got a brick. Trust me, when it gets dark, it’s goin’ through a window,” 58-year old OG Rich said as he strolled near 13th Street and Broadway, downtown. The Oakland native said he was fed up with seeing law enforcement mistreat the city’s young people, many of whom Rich regarded as his family. “Oscar Grant could have been my nephew.”

Rich admitted he was on the scene to be a part whatever happened, good or bad. “I’m gon’ help these people tear this (expletive) up!”

As protesters paced up and down Broadway – downtown Oakland’s main drag – some said they were content that Mehserle was actually convicted rather than acquitted.

As for Rich, he was adamant in his opposition to the involuntary manslaughter verdict. He held a sign that read “The whole damn system is guilty, we need a real resolution.” Each time he hoisted the sign, Rich seemed to grow more agitated. As he began to shout, “(Expletive) the police, you sorry (expletive)!,” young people joined his chant.

Oakland Reacts to Mehserle Verdict

By Diana Alonzo, Tyrese Johnson, and Adimu Madyun

OAKLAND, CA – Oakland Voices correspondents have spread throughout the city to get reactions from residents following the Johannes Mehserle verdict. The former BART police officer was found guilty today of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of Oscar Grant III last year.

“This is an absurd miscarriage of justice. It was an obvious murder,” said Oakland resident Duane Deterville. “Everyone saw the shooting. Anyone who’s not a racist can see it.” Deterville also said the jury’s decision, “underlines how much hasn’t changed in regard to policing of black and brown people in this country.”

Observing the reaction of Oakland residents to the verdict, Deterville said, “People are not happy. How could you be? People are glad the shooting and the case were visible enough to make it to court. But there’s a feeling there was some game playing with the judge and the jury.”

When asked how he thought people should respond to the verdict, Deterville said, “Ah! That’s a tough one. All I have to say is, timing is everything.”

Sammy is a security guard and a 25 year resident of downtown Oakland. As protesters shouted “burn this justice system down” and “we don’t got no time for talking, it’s time for violence,” Sammy said people in Oakland should “keep their heads straight” and avoid violence.

A resident named Dr. M was handing out protest literature near the corner of 14th Street and Broadway in downtown Oakland. About this verdict, he said, “This isn’t our party. This is the white people’s party. We had our party. Oscar Grant was already handled by Lovelle Mixon.”

Mixon was an Oakland man involved in a shootout that included four OPD officers on March 21, 2009. Mixon and the four officers died. Dr M’s view points echo the sentiments of many in the community who feel the officers’ deaths were payback for years of police abuse.

Many Oakland residents see the jury’s decision as deeply flawed. Dr. M said it points to something wrong with the way America’s legal system treats black people . “We ain’t gonna get justice in America. This is all about race. That’s all America is, is racism.”

Actor and comedian Mark Curry is an Oakland native who expressed his frustration with the trial’s outcome. “The word ‘guilty’ hasn’t been said in about 30 years involving cops.”

Mehserle Jury Weighs Verdict Options: A Brief Explainer

By Dre McEwen

OAKLAND, CA – In some ways, commentary on the shooting of Oscar Grant seems simple, divided by one vast river of intent.  Either Johannes Mehserle meant to draw his gun and shoot Grant, or he meant to draw his Taser to tase him.  Murder in cold blood, or a grave mistake.

For the jurors, the central issue is likely far from black or white.  This case flounders in possibilities – a deep, deep well of murky middle.  Not just tasked with rendering their individual opinions, the Mehserle jury is faced with an onerous mission: reaching a consensus when their options are many.

Here is a breakdown of the jury’s choices.

Second Degree Murder
“Simply put, in order to convict Mehserle of second degree murder,” explains Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson, “the jury must find that the prosecution has proven that Mehserle actually realized that he might kill someone, and took the risk of doing so.” Levenson says the jurors need to be convinced “that Mehserle knew he had drawn his gun.”

Voluntary Manslaughter
One type of voluntary manslaughter is a sudden killing in the heat of passion.  The jury will consider whether Grant or others provoked Mehserle in a way that would move an average person to lose self-control under the influence of the heat of the moment.

Among the questions that go into considering voluntary manslaughter: was he provoked enough to make him respond violently, and with lethal force?  And here’s a big one: how does society expect a reasonable person in Mehserle’s shoes to have acted?

Levenson says that voluntary manslaughter also includes cases of “imperfect self-defense.” That means the defendant honestly but unreasonably feared the victim and believed he had to act in self-defense.  Were Mehserle’s actions based on a reasonable belief about his situation?

Involuntary Manslaughter
For the jury to choose involuntary manslaughter, Levenson says, it just needs to believe “that Mehserle should have know that he had drawn his gun, even if he didn’t actually realize it.”  “Acting with ‘gross negligence,’” Levenson explains, “means that the defendant made a mistake that another person in his situation would not have made.”  So even if Mehserle honestly thought he drew his Taser, the jury must find that that belief was not reasonable.

If Mehserle is acquitted, it will basically mean he’s been found innocent of the criminal charges against him. There are two ways that homicide can be excused: when it’s done by accident, and when there is no unlawful intent.  Homicide by public officers is justifiable when it is committed necessarily and lawfully. Riots, overcoming someone who is resisting arrest, or keeping the peace are all potential scenarios for justifiable homicide.

Mehserle could be acquitted of all criminal charges. For that to happen, the jury must find that he drew his gun purely by mistake, and that the caution he used when trying to use his Taser was ordinary given the former BART officer’s training.

Hung Jury
To reach any verdict, every one of the 12 jurors has to agree. Getting a dozen people to reach a consensus on just about anything is hard work. This is a complicated murder trial with a lot at stake. If they don’t all agree, a “hung jury” will be declared, and the case will be called a mistrial. The prosecution can send Mehserle to trial again, perhaps seeking a lesser charge.

Dre McEwen is a former Oakland Voices correspondent.

Bay Area Rapper, Paralyzed by a Bullet, Fights Back with Music

By Malcolm Pate

LIVERMORE, CA – Looking at himself in his bedroom mirror, Arthur “AR” Renowitzky contemplates his singular goal: willing himself to the top, with his family at his side, and god on his mind.

He studies his reflection – a confident, street wise rapper, rocking baggy jeans and a baseball cap. There’s also the wheel chair. AR says it’s his reminder to take nothing for granted.

AR was shot in the chest on December 2, 2007, at close range in front of a San Francisco night club. The bullet ripped into AR’s chest and parked itself deep in his liver. The shot damaged his spinal cord, causing him to loose the use of his legs. “The bullet was so far in me,” AR says, that removing it would have been life threatening. When doctors operated on him, they decided to sew him back up and leave the bullet inside.

“When my mother asked the doctor how I was, the doctor told her that I was lucky to be alive,” says AR. “My mom was always stressing, asking the doctor, ‘How’s my baby doing? How’s my baby?’  The doctor couldn’t give a solid answer as to whether or not I would survive. I was in a coma for twenty-one days.”

When AR came out of the coma, it was two days before Christmas. The doctor said he would never walk or talk again. AR was 20 years old, with a bullet lodged in his chest, and a tube going into his throat.  “All I could think was that my future looked dim.”

But his family would not let him quit. “This is my path. God has blessed me to still be alive,” says AR. At the time, it wasn’t easy for AR to see anything positive coming from his accident.

Today, things are different. Now AR is on a mission against guns. “I’m all for silence the violence.”

AR is using his music to get guns off of Oakland’s streets. He says his hit song “Don’t Take My Shine” resonates with those who have suffered from gun violence.

The rap world is nothing new to AR. The Bay Area artist started his music career in 2003 when he was 15 years old. He recently finished a tour with rap star E-40, and has collaborated with San Quinn and other Bay Area artists.

AR performed last month at Party for Peace, a fundraiser he threw to raise money for his Life Goes On foundation. The non-profit group works in the Bay Area to help end youth gun violence. LGO also supports research to cure paralyzing spinal cord injuries.

“This dude’s gonna be unstoppable. He’s doing something real,” says Steve Owen, a producer and engineer at Livermore’s Burnin’ Burro Studios, where Party for Peace was held. Owen has only met AR once. The rapper left a big impression. “What hit me square in the face with AR was he was a victim of a circumstance, and that did not stop him.”

AR says his message is well respected by other rap artists, and by young people around the East Bay. He has shared his story at several high schools, juvenile halls, and Boys and Girls Clubs. A fan of AR who goes by the stage name Kid Cali says, “AR is a positive influence and an inspiration to the community.”

AR tends to keep his life reflections simple. “I would pray every night to walk again, but I was satisfied to be alive.”

AR will tour the Bay Area this fall, taking his message of peace to twenty schools in forty days. For more information, visit the Life Goes On Foundation website. The LGO foundation was created three years ago when AR decided not to give up.

Malcolm Pate is a former Oakland Voices correspondent.

‘Warrior’ Artist Aims Oscar Grant Murals at Mehserle Trial

By Adimu Madyun

OAKLAND, CA – Rubbing his face quietly, the Oakland-based artist Golden State Warrior looks out of a car window. He surveys his latest graffiti piece as the paint dries in the night air. “My art is intended to stimulate consciousness,” he says.

GSW’s paintings of contemporary urban black warriors holding giant African spears are prominent in high traffic areas throughout Oakland.  “I use the warrior to bring vital information to my audience,” says GSW.

His new painting speaks directly to Oscar Grant’s killing, and to the former BART police officer on trial for the shooting. It’s an eight foot tall warrior standing vigilantly at 74th Street and MacArthur Boulevard in East Oakland. The character is clutching a trademark spear, and wears an Oakland A’s cap cocked to his right. He’s surrounded by the spray painted messages “Justice for Oscar Grant” and “RIP Lovelle Mixon.” “Oscar and Lovelle are both part of the battle between the police and the people,” the artist says. “Oscar was a tragedy. Lovelle was a victory.”

Lovelle Mixon was an Oakland resident who was involved in a shootout that included himself and four OPD officers on March 21, 2009. Mixon and the four officers died. GSW’s view points echo the sentiments of many in the community who feel the officers’ deaths were payback for years of police abuse.

The painted warrior’s shirt reads “Do The Right Thing.” It’s a plea to those deciding Mehserle’s fate. “What would it look like if they do the right thing and bring justice for Oscar Grant?,” GSW wonders.

As Oakland and the nation await a verdict and the city’s response, GSW said he believes the community, city and state are all preparing for the worst. “The city is investing in a fight with supporters of Oscar Grant, not in new levels of accountability for the police.”

Reflecting on the consequences of a not guilty ruling, GSW asks, “what else can the people do but tear up the city? What are we suppose to do when the court doesn’t work for us? I would rather see justice so it doesn’t come to that. But if justice doesn’t come, what else can we do? Nobody said anything about Oscar Grant until we rebelled in the streets and made the city listen to us.”

Mehserle Verdict Fears Prompt Oakland Shops To Board Up

By Brian Beveridge

OAKLAND, CA – It was dead calm, like the eye of a storm, at the corner of Webster and Seventeenth Streets on Independence Day afternoon downtown. Security gates, padlocks and roll-down doors are not uncommon sites as this city struggles through a sour economy. But plywood-covered windows hinted at something else. 17th Street looked ready for a big storm: Hurricane Mehserle.

Posters in most shop windows seemed positioned to guard against that impending gale. Oscar Grant’s face smiled out from behind locked gates, next to signs for manicures, lattes and Mexican food. In various forms the slogans called out, “justice for Oscar Grant.” The expected storm wasn’t natural. It was political.

Grant, a black 22 year old butcher from Oakland, was shot in the back while lying on the Fruitvale BART platform by Johannes Mehserle, a 28 year old white BART officer with two years on the force.

Mehserle’s trial ended last week in Los Angeles. The jury was sent home for the weekend, but will return to the LA courthouse tomorrow. There could be a verdict by Tuesday evening and opinions on the public reaction run from bad to worse.

“There is going to be trouble, whatever they decide,” said Larry, a long-time white resident of West Oakland’s South Prescott neighborhood, who prefers not to give his last name.

Al Martinez and Mike Campbell, talking on Henry Street, agreed. “If the jury acquits Mehserle?,” Campbell, a middle-aged African-American asked. “That just won’t lay.”

Martinez and Campbell also agreed there could be trouble in downtown Oakland if Mehserle doesn’t get prison time for killing Grant. But Martinez wondered why protesters always turn their anger toward businesses that had nothing to do with the incident. “Why don’t they burn down the courthouse, burn down the police headquarters?,” said Martinez, not to suggest vandalism but to question the logic of certain violent protesters.

Campbell replied, “they got the police station guarded.”

Across the street, another white neighbor who chose not to give his name said the shooting was racially motivated. “We live in a racist society. We have to look at that in these situations.”

The question of whether the shooting of Grant was just a terrible accident draws little sympathy for Mehserle. On the issue of the specific verdict, few residents know the implications of the various degrees of homicide available to the jury. None can say what justice in the case would really look like, but the general opinion is that Johannes Mehserle needs to see the inside of a jail cell for a long time.